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From the field

Disproportionate Force Suspected in Northern Gaza Strip

133 Palestinians killed during IDF Action in Gaza Strip; B'Tselem Calls for Investigations into all Civilian Deaths

B'Tselem's investigation indicates that during the 'Days of Repentance' Operation (29 September - 15 October 2004):

  • IDF forces in the northern Gaza Strip (Beit Hanun, Beit Lahiya, and the Jabalya refugee camp) killed 116 Palestinians and wounded approximately 430 Palestinians;
  • Among those killed were 50 civilians who did not take part in the hostilities, including 26 children under 18;
  • The IDF damaged at least 235 homes in the northern Gaza Strip: 85 housing units were completely demolished and another 150 housing units were severely damaged.
  • An additional 17 Palestinians were killed during IDF actions in the central and southern sections of the Gaza Strip. B'Tselem has not yet completed its investigation into the identity of the persons killed and the circumstances in which they died.
  • One Israeli soldier was killed during the operation.

The death of a large number of civilians who did not take part in the fighting, as well as the enormous property damage, strongly suggest that the IDF used disproportionate and illegal force. The lack of intention to kill civilians does not absolve the IDF commanders from their obligation to prevent gunfire, even when directed at armed individuals, if such fire is liable to result in disproportionate harm to civilians.

The Qassam missile attacks on Sderot are themselves a violation of international law. However, the grief over the death of the three residents of Sderot, among them two children, cannot justify the violation of international humanitarian law.

B'Tselem urges the government of Israel to direct the Military Police to investigate the deaths of all Palestinian civilians who did not take part in the fighting, and where appropriate, prosecute the soldiers responsible. Furthermore, the IDF must learn the lessons from this operation in order to prevent such widespread civilian deaths in the future.